When Queer Coding Becomes Queer Baiting: The Significance of Queer (Sub)text in BBC's Sherlock

Thumbnail Image
Issue Date
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Queer subtext in mainstream media has played a significant part in representing queer stories while simultaneously going unnoticed by mainstream audiences. This thesis examines the use of queer subtext in BBC’s Sherlock (2010) and seeks to contribute to debates surrounding the concept of ‘queerbaiting’. This thesis argues that, though there is queer text present in Sherlock, this is consistently undermined with jokes that reinforce the ideology of heteronormativity and with the introduction of female characters that prevent the possibility of a queer romance. The extensive amount of queer subtext in the show is only recognised by people who have been trained to look for queer coding and is thus not disruptive enough to challenge this ideology, resulting in a polarisation of viewing practices, with a large number of fans viewing Sherlock as a queer text while a mainstream audience is quick to dismiss or overlook this. The ease with which mainstream viewers overlook this aspect of the series demonstrates that, in order to move away from a heteronormative ideology, it is crucial to create more explicit and undeniable queer stories, as well as to validate queer readings that are based on subtext alone.
Faculteit der Letteren